GOLF & GEOGRAPHY
This page ARCHIVED - August 2008
The best place to play golf is on a decent links course. I live close to the course at Old Hunstanton.
Recently read "A Season in Dornoch" by Lorne Rubenstein, which is an excellent book. This has a section looking at the nature of links golf courses as being made by nature as an extension of a natural process of sand dune formation, affected by regression (lowering of sea level relative to the land) It describes the way in which the duneland that forms the links is in constant motion. Forces of geology over billions of years have shaped this landscape. The sea and gale force winds are only yards away.
Donald Steel wrote that links land "links the sea with the more fertile plains that may be only a couple of hundred yards distant. It is land of little agricultural value. The only vegetation it supports is a covering of wiry grasses". These make ideal conditions for golf when growing on a firm sandy base, especially with my trusty 4 iron... (which colleague Mr. Shaw wants me to snap in half...)
The dunes had channels running between them (dune slacks) which were sheltered areas. Sea birds nested, and seeds were blown in, and their guano fertilised the land. Vegetation covered what became the fairways, and the dunes were covered with hardy marram grass: one of the few plants able to survive the conditions. Marram only thrives in areas where sand is blown in by the wind, as it gets its nutrients from salty solutions and minerals that dry on the surface of the sand particles.
Apparently a golfer who pulls up marram grass to get a better lie is cursed....
Robert Price is also mentioned. He's a glacial expert.
Links land occupies a narrow zone along the coast. Transport is onshore winds. Sand accumulates in dunes ten to thirty feet high. Fairways are formed in dune slacks.
Dr. John Pethick is another coastal expert mentioned. He was originally at Hull University and then moved on. We use his textbook in the department: "An Introduction to Coastal Geomorphology". He refers to links land as a FOSSIL sand-dune ridge. The sand dunes at the coast trap the sand because of the vegetation that grows on them. This means that the area inland from the coast is starved of sand, which means that it deflates, or is lowered. Global warming is changing the ecology of these areas. Holes will be threatened. The courses may have to migrate inland.
Some courses are being threatened by coastal erosion. This is exacerbated by rising sea levels, relative to the level of the land.
Courses that are threatened include Ballybunion, Aberdovey, Royal Portrush, Rye and Royal Dornoch.
I live close to Royal West Norfolk (Brancaster) Golf course. Certain holes on the golf course are being threatened by erosion. The tendency is to go for hard engineering: rock walls, gabions and fencing.
The local MANAGEMENT PLAN mentions several golf courses.
A view from Titchwell RSPB reserve towards Brancaster Golf Course: the building in the far distance. Image by Mister P
Golf is also one of the many areas which are expanding at the moment in China. The Chinese are big on golf. A useful article from the BBC NEWS site looks at the phenomenal growth in golf courses, and in membership.
Golf courses require large amounts of water.
Tree planting to add character and interest lowers the local water table.
Chemicals are used on the greens to suppress weed growth.
Golf is a common example of DIVERSIFICATION available to farmers. Many farmers have switched to golf from farming....
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